I’ve heard this far too many times in the last few weeks.
A young lady named Glyn Wright is quoted over and over as saying,
“So 3 times 4 can now equal 11 so long as a student can effectively explain how they reached that answer.”
She apparently got her information about the Common Core State Standards from this video:
Glyn Wright has misunderstood the video.
Listen carefully to the video at 0:20 – an audience member says, “But we’d be correcting them, right?”
To which the speaker say, “Oh, absolutely! Absolutely.”
You might ask, as one of the YouTube video’s commentators did, “How can a student possibly explain that 3 times 4 is 11?”
Here’s how a kid can get 11 from 3 x 4…
Suppose a child arranges 3 rows of 4 raisins each on a table.
Then he counts them – but he counts them incorrectly and gets 11. (This is common – little kids get distracted and often over or under count.)
He’s shown that creating an array of 3 by 4 is the same as the product 3 times 4. Thus demonstrating that he fully understands the concept of multiplication.
His count was off. Not his idea of what multiplication really is.
Therefore he’s not wrong – he merely needs to correct his counting.
Given the opportunity – by a teacher who recognizes where his error really is – he can self correct and finally arrive at the answer expected.
Why do people freak when they hear this?
Glyn Wright is a perfect example to explain this. Her bio claims no math, math teaching or any education background. In fact, she majored in English and Professional Writing – which means it’s likely she stopped her math education at College Algebra.
I’ve been knee deep in college math education for almost 20 years, so I know what this means.
When she was in school, if she would have said that 3 times 4 is 11, she would have been told it was wrong. It’s unlikely she’s ever had a math teacher say, “Let’s investigate how you got that.”
She’s one of the people conditioned that math is a bunch of absolutes. That there’s no creativity, flexible thinking or even enjoyment in math.
She’s part of the generation the Common Core is trying to correct.
Glyn Wright’s attitude is the exact reason we need change in math education.
And it’s not her fault.
I got a little hot headed and tweeted something snippy after I read the Fox News article where she was quoted. In retrospect, this was a terrible idea.
In fact, she’s just like my students. Math has been done to her. She never got to see it for it’s beauty.
For that I truly apologize. Both for my snippiness and for the years of beautiful math that’ve been stolen from her.
The point is that we want students to think and explore. And we don’t want teachers crushing them when they do.
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